Dumping Ends Today at World's Largest Landfill

NEW YORK, New York, March 22, 2001 (ENS) - The most infamous landfill in the United States is closing today after 50 years of accepting a growing amount of New York City's garbage. Fresh Kills on Staten Island, one of New York's five boroughs, accepted its last barge load of trash this morning.

New York Governor George Pataki, New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Staten Island Borough President Guy Molinari celebrated the end of more than 50 years of waste disposal at Fresh Kills landfill nine months ahead of schedule, as a barge carrying the final shipment of waste to the landfill was emptied.

"Today marks the final shipment of trash to the landfill and the beginning of a new era of environmental restoration for Staten Island and the entire city," Governor Pataki said.


Seagulls feast on Fresh Kills landfill at sunset. (Photos courtesy Office of Staten Island Borough President)
Borough President Molinari called the landfill that blighted the area with noxious odors and barges lined up around the clock to dump up to 14,000 tons of waste every day, "the most notorious environmental burden in Staten Island's history."

"The closure of the Fresh Kills Landfill is, by far, the highlight of my 27 year political career," Molinari said. "The closure of the dump represents a bright, new beginning for Staten Island."

Erin Crotty, acting commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation said, "The closure of Fresh Kills not only marks the culmination of years of effort to bring the state into the age of modern solid waste management practices, but presents a tremendous opportunity to turn this blighted landscape into an environmental success story."

"We look forward to working with the city on a plan for the future of Fresh Kills that will benefit Staten Island residents by helping to restore the ecology and natural resources of this area," Crotty said.


Fresh Kills Creek runs near the world's largest landfill.
It was once a natural area of meadows, marshlands and wetlands, named by the early Dutch settlers Fresh Kills, which means fresh streams. Still surrounded by some of the original ecosystem, the landfill now contains four enormous mountains of refuse. Fresh Kills and the Great Wall of China are the only two human constructions visible from outer space.

Fresh Kills is the last of the landfills in New York City and the last unlined municipal solid waste landfill in New York State. The closure of the dump, which covers more than 3,000 acres on the western shore of Staten Island, ends an era.

As part of a 1996 agreement to stop the importation of trash to the Fresh Kills landfill and close the facility by December 31, 2001, Governor Pataki and Mayor Giuliani appointed a 12-member joint task force to develop a plan for closing Fresh Kills and recommend alternatives for waste disposal.

The Task Force report, completed in November 1996, provided a framework for the closure, including recommendations for increased recycling efforts by the city and a five year schedule for reducing the amount of waste going to the landfill.


Aerial view of Fresh Kills landfill.
In February 2001, the New York City Comprehensive Solid Waste Management Plan Modification was approved after extensive public outreach including three City Council hearings. It provides a detailed framework for New York City residential solid waste management in the post Fresh Kills era.

Through that plan, the management of solid waste will be equitably shared across all five boroughs without placing an undue burden on any single borough.

From now on, New York City will no longer handle the 11,500 tons of household trash generated each day with its own landfills and incinerators.

Now the city will send its garbage to 18 garbage transfer stations in the city, New Jersey and on Long Island. They will package the trash and send it by truck to landfills and incinerators in New York state, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Virginia.

Watching the last barge dump its load, Mayor Giuliani said, "As Staten Island continues to thrive and grow, its residents can take pleasure in knowing that the world's largest landfill has taken on its last shipment. Staten Island's future has never looked brighter."